If I gotta tank for the draft, I'mma make it look sexay.
The year is 2017, the NBA playoffs are underway and hip hop is awash with top shelf talent and god-level bangers.
It is, by all accounts, a good time to be a consumer of rap and basketball (despite some humbug-ing to the contrary), and in honor of these halcyon days, I've gone ahead and made a series of unnecessary comparisons likening each NBA team's season to date to its rap album equivalent.
I drew on albums from all across rap history for my selections, factoring in personnel, team records and the franchise's general sadness or glow as it befitted my personal agenda.
The following pairings are the results of those efforts, listed from worst record to best. They are unimpeachable, and the 2016-17 Denver Nuggets are early Kanye and that is the end of that discussion.
Brooklyn Nets (20-62)
Album:4 Your Eyez Only, J. Cole(2017)
The Nets’ 2016-17 tanking campaign was a masterpiece in awfulness—an end-to-end opus of futility that even the most open-minded sports fan struggled to digest.
This is a rare feat, as it's not often you find a sports team that is, at once, sincere, schmaltzy and unaccessible as this year's Nets squad, but they somehow managed it en route to an uncontested tanking title.
Phoenix Suns (24-58)
Album:Souljaboytellem, Soulja Boy (2007)
Basically just a vehicle for a smash hit single that reached heights we're embarrassed as a people to admit.
Los Angeles Lakers (26-56)
Album:SremmLife, Rae Sremmurd (2015)
Great singles and a lot of talent, but Lake Sremmurd are young and 2016-17 was miles away from a classic.
Philadelphia 76ers (28-54)
Album:10 Day, Chance the Rapper (2012)
A warning shot across the bow by the future of the league, as well as a season hipster Philly fans 12 years from now will point to as proof of their fanhood.
Orlando Magic (29-53)
Album:DC4, Meek Mill (2016)
A bad season whose most notable moments were off-court blunders caused by terrible front office decisions.
Minnesota Timberwolves (31-51)
Album:What a Time to be Alive, Drake & Future (2015)
A short and disappointing collab by absurdly talented dudes who may one day be all-timers. Just not today.
New York Knicks (31-51)
Album:Unfinished Business, Jay Z & R. Kelly (2016)
Back in the early aughts Jay Z and R. Kelly joined forces for Unfinished Business, a collab album and supporting tour titled Best of Both Worlds that was supposed to merge the respective kings of hip hop and R&B into an unstoppable mega duo of carelessly flung champagne and other liquids.
It was a spectacular failure, and culminated in Kels abandoning Jay during a performance at Madison Square Garden.
A resurrection attempt that starts strong, has its moments but falls completely into disarray by the end.
Dallas Mavericks (33-49)
Album:Magna Carta Holy Grail, Jay Z(2013)
Dirk Nowitzki is the Jay Z of the NBA—a one-of-a-kind talent who continues to lace them up long after he has any reason to.
New Orleans Pelicans (34-48)
Album:Because the Internet, Childish Gambino (2013)
Because the Internet starts hot, falls into lunacy and gets back on the road toward the end, and I can think of no better fit for the Pelicans’ up-and-down season.
Charlotte Hornets (36-46)
Album:Cadillactica, Big K.R.I.T. (2014)
The Hornets are the NBA's Big K.R.I.T. in that they both have a significant talent and noble intentions but have yet to deliver consistently when people finally start to give a damn about them.
Detroit Pistons (37-45)
Album:Fetty Wap (2015)
A promising project that made some noise early and was never heard from again.
Denver Nuggets (40-42)
Album:The College Dropout, Kanye West (2004).
Young, talented and almost universally liked. If we’re lucky, this is just the beginning the Nuggets’ canon.
Miami Heat (41-41)
Album: Every 2 Chainz verse over the last year and a half.
The Miami Heat 2Chainz’d it up this year as the team that no one expected much from and continued to quietly murder the booth until we were forced to take notice.
I also like to imagine Dion Waiters living out Chainz’ line from “Champions” about wearing pajamas to Ruth’s Chris.
Chicago Bulls (41-41)
Album:Lasers, Lupe Fiasco (2011)
A bizarre and disappointing outing that was way more commercially successful than it had any right to be.
Milwaukee Bucks (42-40)
Album:Straight Outta Compton, N.W.A. (1988)
They came out of nowhere and, led by a single, transcendent, do-it-all talent, changed the entire conversation and forged a new picture of what the future of the game would look like. And the scariest thing is Giannis hasn’t even dropped his Chronic yet.
Atlanta Hawks (43-39)
Album:Red Light District, Ludacris (2004)
Two years removed from their 60-win Word of Mouf season in 2014-15, the Hawks continue a slow slide toward the edge of playoff contention, and like Red Light District, this year was neither good nor bad.
Indiana Pacers (42-40)
Album: Any Freddie Gibbs album
Paul George is the Freddie Gibbs of ball in that he is both very slept-upon and entirely properly rated.
Washington Wizards (49-33)
Album:The Main Ingredient, Pete Rock & C.L. Smooth (1994)
One of the least talked about and most exciting seasons of the year, the Wizards’ 2016-17 campaign was driven by one of the most talented duos that will ever be forgotten to NBA history.
Portland Trail Blazers (41-41)
Album:The Letter O, Damian Lillard (2016)
Just good enough to get into the playoffs, but far from contender status in the grand scheme.
Memphis Grizzlies (43-39)
Album:I Decided, Big Sean (2017)
A strong effort by an unflashy act that’s already been wiped from memory because no one gives a damn about Big Sean or Memphis.
Utah Jazz (51-31)
Album:Do You Want More?!!??!, The Roots (1994)
Smooth, forceful and replete with classics. And no one cares.
Oklahoma City Thunder (47-35)
Album:DAMN., Kendrick Lamar (2017)
A one-man masterwork by a generational talent with sparse features and zero Fs to give.
Toronto Raptors (51-31)
Album:Views, Drake (2016)
Pretty good if you came into it with reasonable expectations.
Los Angeles Clippers (51-31)
Album:Run the Jewels 3.
A product with high expectations met annually with increasingly forced and fleeting enthusiasm.
Cleveland Cavaliers (51-31)
Album:Life of Pablo, Kanye West (2016)
A case study in dual personalities that ranged everywhere from unbeatable to unintelligible. Kanye and LeBron are, by all reports, aging well but weak second halves of their season has people questioning their genius yet again.
Boston Celtics (53-29)
Album:My Name is Jeffery, Young Thug (2016)
The Celtics put on a damn strong showing in the regular season and, like current Young Thug, continue to be taken lightly. They’re not the best in the game, but they’re not a sideshow.
Houston Rockets (55-27)
Album: HNDRXX, Future (2017)
Hopes were high but no one could’ve hoped for anything this good in Mike D’Antoni’s first year.
San Antonio Spurs (61-21)
Album:Compton, Dr. Dre (2015)
The Spurs continue to be the Dr. Dre of hip hop in that they’re respected, lauded and then taken out of the picture once any conversation about serious title contenders begins. But make no mistake: the Spurs had the second best album of the year.
Golden State Warriors (67-15)
Album:Speakerboxxx/The Love Below, Outkast (2006)
A highly anticipated affair that made an abrupt change near the halfway mark and still has people questioning who the true leader and superior talent of the group is.